Contrast in Controversy: Why Was Osaka Mistreated In Light Of Sabalenka's Treatment

Contrast in Controversy: Why Was Osaka Mistreated In Light Of Sabalenka's Treatment

by Alfredo Bassanelli

The times change and so does the approach to the players on the WTA Tour such as Aryna Sabalenka and Naomi Osaka.

Two years ago we saw Naomi Osaka pull out from Roland Garros under threats of heavy fines for skipping over press conference only for Aryna Sabalenka to get help from the event in doing the exact same thing.

The French Open has become quite a controversy magnet as we've seen major controversies at the event for the past three years. Let's get last year's controversy out of the way because it's not really relevant to this story. It was the scheduling drama that saw only one WTA match scheduled in the premier night slot for the entirety of the event.

One year later we're seeing the same thing but we're also seeing other controversies. The major one is probably Aryna Sabalenka turning down doing press conferences to preserve her mental health.

The reality is a bit different as the Belarusian still held a 'press conference' it was just one with a selected few journalists, a group that didn't feature the Ukranian one that clashed with her the previous time she took the podium.

She did it again after her latest match, opting not to hold a press conference but rather simply talking to a WTA reporter who conduct the interview with her. The motive here is clear, Sabalenka doesn't want to be asked about the war in Ukraine anymore, especially not by Ukranian reporters who won't hold back with the questions.

She has been hammered with questions about the war in Ukraine and Belarus' support of Russia. She clearly felt enough was enough. I think that's her right. It's the right of the press to ask the questions they want to ask, but also it is her right not to answer them if she doesn't want to answer them.

Pegula on Sabalenka's decision

Pegula correctly assumed that in her latest column for BBC Sport where she defended Sabalenka's right to do what she did. While right in principle it left a lot of Naomi Osaka fans disappointed considering the way she was treated at the same event only two years ago. The Roland Garros seemingly turned very progressive overnight.

Osaka famously released a statement that she won't be doing media availability due to her mental health, however, the event released a statement signaling intent to penalize her for every skipped press conference. Fellow players were asked about it with a lot of showing support for Osaka while admitting that media is simply part of the job.

Osaka would withdraw from the event after those 'threats' from the French Tennis Federation 'not wanting to be a distraction'. Two years later Sabalenka is doing the same thing, however, this time around she's getting support from both the event and a player who sits on the WTA Council.

Many will say that it was a good move altogether by the event but a lot will be disappointed by this response after the harsh treatment of Osaka only two years ago. Either way, the true test will be when another player voices similar concerns. Is this a new trend or just an exception to the rule that Osaka found herself on the wrong side of? Time will tell.


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